Sleeping for exam success

Listen to the talk about how getting more sleep can help you achieve better exam results and do the exercises to practise and improve your listening skills.


Do the preparation exercise before you listen. Then do the other exercises to check your understanding.

Remote audio URL


Teacher: Good afternoon. So we’re fast approaching exam season and I can already see a lot of tired faces here in front of me. Well, today we are lucky enough to have Professor Manson from the University of Denton talk to us about how sleep can help us pass those all-important exams. So without any further ado, I’d like you to give a big round of applause and stay wide awake for Professor Manson.

Professor: Good afternoon. Looking around this room now takes me back to when I was your age and life seemed to be a never-ending chain of exams and assignments. At that time, organisation was not my forte and too often I found myself up all hours of the night before an exam cramming every last piece of information I could in an attempt to remember something. Does that sound familiar to any of you? Can I just see a show of hands how many of you this term have had no more than 3 or 4 hours' sleep before an exam? OK, so that’s a clear majority and it has to be said that last-minute revision can do wonders for the short-term memory, but what is, in fact, even more beneficial is a good night’s sleep.

So, I’d like to explain to you now, especially you all-night crammers, the link between sleep and memory and how a good night’s kip can improve your exam results. Now, could everyone take a minute to work out, on average, how many hours' sleep they get every night. Can I see a show of hands for more than 10 hours? OK, none of you, how about between 8 and 10 hours? A handful of you. OK, so what about between 6 and 8 hours? Right, that’s a popular option. And any of you fewer than 6 hours? Mmm … OK, so you’re the guys we most need to worry about.

According to the National Sleep Foundation in Washington, newborn babies need anything between 14 and 17 hours' sleep and this amount gradually decreases the older we get until as adults we need around 7 or 8 hours sleep, but … you’ll be interested to know that the 14 to 17 age group should be aiming for 8 to 10 hours' sleep a night. So you can already see that most of us are not getting enough sleep, and this is something we need to think about.

Sleep is essential. The human body simply can’t survive without it. End of story. While we’re asleep, the body checks that all our vital functions such as growth, circulatory systems and our immune system are in good working order. And while we’re snoring away, our brains are very active restructuring information we’ve collected during the day and consolidating memories.

So let me explain memory consolidation. Memory consolidation is what happens when information is moved from our short-term memory to our long-term memory with the help of a major part of the brain called the hippocampus. This is it, folks … this is the BIG moment when all of those facts and figures that you have crammed into your short-term memory are processed and consolidated in your long-term memory.

However, as you’re probably aware, we don’t always remember everything. One reason we remember certain things better than others relates to the environment or conditions we were in when we originally made the memories. What experts have discovered is, the more emotions that are activated when we make a memory, the more likely we are to consolidate that memory. So, for example, the more interesting or fun you find a biology lesson, the more chance there is of you remembering information from it … OK, teachers? And not only that … we actually need to review information again and again after certain periods of time to help the consolidation process, which is why well-planned exam revision timetables are far more effective in the long term than short-term cramming the night before.

And one reason why it's important to get enough hours of sleep is that this process of consolidation happens during certain stages of sleep. So you’re probably aware that there are different stages of sleep. The initial stages of sleep are a much lighter type of sleep and it's not until we reach the later stages of deep sleep, what we call 'slow wave sleep' because the brain waves are much slower, that we consolidate our memories. These slow waves help move the information we have collected and stored in the hippocampus to our long-term memory.

So what we have here is enough evidence to conclude that the best way to help you pass your exams is to learn the information in a fun, interesting way, review it regularly, and most importantly, get plenty of good-quality sleep.

And before you all drift off into a peaceful slumber, I’d like you to ask any questions you might have.

Teacher: Thank you, Professor. OK, any questions?


What's the perfect amount of sleep for you? What effects do you notice if you don't get enough sleep?

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Submitted by pomelo on Wed, 04/12/2023 - 15:13

For me, I sleep 9 hours a day, if I sleep less then I will yawn continuously

Submitted by boba on Fri, 02/05/2021 - 11:51

in the second task 3. in the answer sheet it shows two words, but in the another order than the speaker said. so i filled the gap with these words with the order from the audiofile, but the the website counted my answer as incorrect, which i think is not "fair" and i should have one more point there, because the sense of the sentence does not change because of the order.....
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Submitted by JoModerator on Sat, 02/06/2021 - 10:12

Hi boba,

Thanks for your comment and for letting us know about this problem with the task. If you put 'sleep and memory', that's correct. The online task should have accepted that answer. We'll try to fix it as soon as possible.

Best wishes,

Jo (LearnEnglish Teens team)

In reply to by boba

Submitted by AleXe_y1100 on Sun, 05/24/2020 - 18:49

The perfect amount of sleep for me is 7-8 hours. Lack of sleep drains my mental abilities and I find it more difficult to concentrate or learn new things. Sleep deprivation also negatively affects my emotional state.

Submitted by Mitriy on Fri, 05/22/2020 - 22:48

I usually sleep from 8 to 10 hours a day. If I sleep less or more than this time, I was feel tired during all day. But when I sleep 10 hours, I become more productive and active. That is why, I believe that this is the most optimal period of time for sleep.

Submitted by Oladushek on Fri, 05/22/2020 - 16:28

The perfect amount of sleep for me is 7-8 hours. I have to say, that the amount of sleep doesn't have any meaning for me if I fall asleep too late. That is why I usually try to go bed before 12 PM because it is the only chance for me to have sleep of a good quality. If I don't get enough sleep, I can't accept any information. The process of study becomes insufferable for me! I also become really nervous and cannot communicate with other people well.

Submitted by PolinaM on Fri, 05/22/2020 - 15:55

For me the perfect amount of sleep is from 7 to 8 hours. If I sleep less than 6 hours, I feel terrible. I've noticed that if I don't get enough sleep, I become inattentive and irritable. Besides, it becomes difficult for me to complete even the simplest study tasks.

Submitted by Jmyh on Fri, 05/22/2020 - 12:02

Sleeping is the best way to relax for my organism. I absolutely agree with the Professor that the perfect amount of sleep is 8-10 hours. I try to follow this recommendation, especially before hard day. If I sleep less, I become lazy, I cannot focus on daily issues and even on study.

Submitted by AsyaB on Fri, 05/22/2020 - 11:28

I usually sleep about 6-8 hours. This is the perfect amount of sleeping for me. If I don't get enough sleep, I'll feel tired and I will not be able to concetrate on work during the day.

Submitted by ksenjaboeva on Fri, 05/22/2020 - 11:10

The perfect amount of sleeping for me is about 6 to 7 hours. If I sleep less, I feel myself very bed and I cannot concentrate on my doings. If I sleep more than 7 hours I feel myself not so active, and I am not ready to work for 1 hour yet.

Submitted by BehBol on Sat, 03/21/2020 - 10:47

The perfect amount of sleeping for me is about 5 to 6 hours. If I sleep less than this amount, I don't have enough focus on issues. On the other hand, if I sleep more than 6 hours, I won't be cheerful and lively.

Submitted by JohnyC on Wed, 01/29/2020 - 16:03

Well, I agree with the speaker that 8 -10 hours of sleep is good for a human's brain and body but the main reason, which stops me from that is that the more you sleep the less time you have in your day to be productive and to do things, which are important for you. And that's why I am not going to stick to this perfect 10 hours' sleep schedule. If I don't get enough sleep, basicly in the morning I barely can get off the bed and most likely I feel horrible. So, that's why I think that it's extremely important to find this working for you amount of hours being asleep.

Submitted by FilipMr on Thu, 12/05/2019 - 11:03

ouu so fantastik
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Submitted by bilko on Thu, 09/13/2018 - 16:11

Thanks to this text ı have learned many new vocabularies and phrases. I agree with the idea that, getting enough and quality sleep is very crucial for memorization. if ı don't get enough sleep, ı will be nervous and can't concentrate well.
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